Organizations benefit from Black History Month screenings

To celebrate Black History Month, Winchester Film Club 3.0 is working with the Winchester-Frederick-Clarke chapter of the NAACP and the Douglass Alumni Association to bring noteworthy black films to the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema.

A portion of film ticket proceeds will go toward both the Douglass Alumni Association’s scholarships for high school seniors and to the youth division of the Winchester-Clarke-Frederick NAACP.

Sharon Dixon said she had approached film club founder Andy Gyurisin about showing a series of black films in February after coming to see the club’s showing of “American Textures” in November.

Kicking the series off, “The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution” sold out on Feb. 3 to a full theater audience. Dixon said the film broadened her own horizons, since she was only vaguely familiar with the party when she was a child.

“It was just a great gathering … and people learned a lot about the history of the Black Panthers – the rise and fall of them that people really didn’t know about,” she said. “I think a lot of people were surprised to see that the things they did were pretty much positive in the community.”

Next up in the series, the 1967 Oscar-winner “In the Heat of the Night” about a murder investigation in a Mississippi town will show on Wednesday. Dixon recounted watching that particular film when she was around 11 years old.

“That was sort of the height of civil rights … where movie theaters, everything was coming down. Before 1964, you had to sit in the balcony. In 1967, you could sit anywhere,” she said. “That movie had been with me – one of the greatest movies I’ve ever seen – because it broke down the barriers of racism.”

While at Berea College in Kentucky, Dixon said she was able to indulge her inner movie buff and watch film after film from creators that represented a variety of different backgrounds. The club couldn’t get access to all of the films she suggested for the series, including titles like Maya Angelou’s “Down in the Delta” and Oscar-nominated “Lady Sings the Blues,” starring Diana Ross as Billie Holiday.

Douglass Alumni Association President Sharon Williams Harris said she enjoyed the first screening and planned on going to many more. Charles Harris, her husband and a member of the association, said he’s looking forward to seeing certain musical artists behind the scenes in the “Take Me to the River” documentary, but every film will present audiences with a rare opportunity.

Dixon said this series is rich with positive and educational films and will help bolster some exceptional organizations. She said she hopes this celebration of thought-provoking and history-making black film will continue in the future.

“It opens up a world…to see things and people differently,” she said. “I think films are a good way to learn about people and situations, and to be more aware of what we can do in the world to help each other.”

IF YOU GO: “In the Heat of the Night” at 7 p.m. Feb. 10, “Take Me to the River” at 7 p.m. Feb. 15, “Chi-Raq” at 3 p.m. Feb. 21 and “Girlhood” at 7 p.m. Feb. 24. Tickets are $7, and can be bought online at

Contact staff writer Rachel Mahoney at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or